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UCHS students race solar go-kart at Bristol Motor Speedway

The UCHS students with their solar-powered go-kart at Bristol Motor Speedway. (Contributed photo)

By Danielle Jones

On May 7, students from schools all around the Tri-Cities went to Bristol Motor Speedway to test their skills and work ethics by racing solar go-karts. This STEM project (Science Technology Engineering Math) helps students utilize the skills they have learned in their career and technical classes.

The Perkins Reserve Grant distributed equal amounts of money to local schools to help modify and improve their solar go-karts from last year’s first annual event. Twenty local schools came together at Bristol Motor Speedway to see their hard work pay off.

Unicoi County High School students used their prior knowledge and class learning experiences to build and construct a solar-powered go-kart. Vocational school classes, such as mechanics and welding, pitched in a helping hand and joined together to modify and improve certain areas on the kart. Students had the opportunity to learn about how solar power works and what life in the workforce is like. Students also learned how the sun can be used as fuel instead of gasoline power engines for means of transportation.

At Bristol Motor Speedway, students gathered in the pits to see what NASCAR drivers endure in everyday life. Each of the 20 local schools had to test their solar go-karts in three categories – appearance, speed and endurance. Timekeepers and lap counters were also students. They were responsible for letting the drivers know what lap they were on, when to pit, and how their timing was improving. The students in the pits had the experience of switching out drivers and helping the go-kart run at its best.

When all categories were completed, the results of the race were revealed to anxious students. In the speed category, Hampton High School won first place, Clinch School won second place and Elizabethton High School won third place. In the Endurance race, first place went to Greene Technology Center, second place went to Clinch School, and Johnson County High School took third place. Unicoi County High School came in close in fifth place out of 20 schools.

Students are now making plans and brainstorming new ideas for next year’s upcoming race. It was certainly a learning experience for students and teachers to know what life for NASCAR drivers and pit crews are like every day.

They also had the opportunity to know how the workforce operates. It was a race for many students that had an impact on their life and it’ll be a memory that will never be forgotten.